In Search of the Lean Six Life

Smarter, not harder. Preferrably A LOT smarter.


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Fruitful Foraging, Week Ending 6/17/2018

Summer is the season for fruit! Except summer starts next week, so we’re still awaiting nature’s bounty.

The exception is black raspberries (Rubus occidentalis), which are the first cane fruit to ripen. Blackberries and wineberries won’t be far behind.

Black raspberries

Black raspberries

These black raspberries became accessible when a road crew “finally” (alas) mowed the roadside, reducing the chance of an unfortunate encounter with ticks and poison ivy. (Random mowing. Yet another reason why you shouldn’t count on roadside foraging.)

Recently, I found a wild pear (Pyrus pyraster) tree. The fruit doesn’t ripen until  November, and remains small and gritty compared to cultivated pears. Rather than eating straight, their flavor is best enjoyed in infusions. Pear liqueur, anyone?

Wild pear

Wild pear

I also FINALLY found pawpaw (Asimina triloba) trees in the area. As is so often the case, they were there all along, I just didn’t know what I was looking for. The fruit should grow larger and turn yellow by August. I hope the weight of the fruit will help bring the branches closer to being within reach.

Pawpaw

Pawpaw

I am currently dreaming up a “food forest” for my front side yard, and pawpaws will play a role in the design. More on food forests in another post.

Deeper in the woods, female spicebush (Lindera benzoin) shrubs are starting to show berries. They will be ready to harvest when they turn red, much later in the summer and into the fall.

Spicebush berries

Spicebush berries

What I did not find in the woods: mayapple fruit! The lush carpet of mayapples had vanished. The few scraggly plants I could still find were too small for fruit, or the fruit was already gone. In two weeks, the entire harvest was just poof. Gone.

Not fruits, but still worth noting: yarrow & day lilies are finally flowering. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) made an appearance on this blog two months ago. This pretty herb is primarily used for tea, seasonings, or garnish. I am waiting for more flowers before I harvest any, so I can’t report on its flavor yet.

Yarrow in flower

Yarrow in flower

The shoots, flowers and tubers of day lilies (Hemerocallis spp.) are all edible, although some people find it upsets their digestive tracts. When introducing wild foods, you should always try a small sample first in case of adverse reactions.

Day lilies

Day lilies

Day lilies exemplify one of the main differences between foraged food and the industrial-agribusiness-grocery-stores. While they provide three different edible parts, the flowers (which are prime forage now) are each only available for a single day. You can’t really “plan” on having enough flowers on one day to feature as an appetizer for a dinner party. Nature doesn’t care about your hors d’oeuvre tray!


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Foraging Finds, Week Ending April 15

I didn’t find as many woodsy wild edibles as I had hoped this week, but the ones I did find were very precious.

First and perhaps foremost for me – I finally located stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)! For positive identification just touch it gloveless. I dare you. Or you know, kneel in a patch of it, not realizing it can actually sting you through the lightweight slacks you wear while foraging. (Folks, don’t try this at home!)

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Virginia spring beauty, or springbeauty (Claytonia virginica). While this dainty flower does have an edible underground tuber or “corm”, collecting it kills the plant. Because they have such a short time to grow and flower in the spring (hence being a “spring ephemeral”) it is hard for them to recover from overharvesting. If you only find a small patch, please leave them be.

Virginia spring beauty (Claytonia virginica)

Virginia spring beauty (Claytonia virginica)

Last but not least, I found a patch of yarrow leaves (Achillea millefolium). Maybe these don’t really count as a wild edible because yarrow is cultivated as well. However, it’s my only other “new” find this week so I’ll take it!

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)